Japanese shipping giant Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, also known as MOL, has settled a major class-action antitrust lawsuit filed by individual consumers and auto, truck and equipment dealerships against more than a dozen international companies accused of unlawfully driving up shipping costs, according to the law firm representing the plaintiffs.
The settlement marks the second significant settlement in the Vehicle Carrier Services Antitrust Litigation following an agreement reached last month with another Japanese shipping company, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, known as K-Line. While the financial terms of both settlements remain confidential, they are expected to become public in documents seeking court approval.
“This is an important day for American consumers,” says Dallas attorney Warren T. Burns of Burns Charest LLP, who servers as interim co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “This is the second major settlement in a month, demonstrating the strength of our clients’ claims. This should send a strong signal to the remaining defendants that it is time to resolve this case.”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which include consumers and auto and truck and equipment dealerships, claim that Tokyo-based MOL and other carriers unlawfully conspired to rig bids, fix prices and overcharge for the transportation of vehicles to the United States.
Last month, the defendants asked U. S. District Judge Esther Salas of Newark to dismiss the lawsuit by arguing that the 1984 Shipping Act pre-empts state antitrust laws that protect indirect purchasers against price-fixing. Burns however argued on behalf of all indirect purchasers that state antitrust laws complement the Shipping Act, and that Congress did not intend to bar such state claims.
“We expect that the court will make a decision very soon,” says Burns. “We are confident that the court will work through the issues carefully and deny the defendants’ motions.”
Additional defendants, among others, include Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line) of Japan and Chilean-based Compania Sud Americana de Vapores (CSAV), both of which previously pled guilty to participating in the conspiracy that is still being investigated by the federal government.